The Wanderers Recap: Burning Off the Fog
Don’t look now, but the Wanderers are continuing to build on their stellar month of June.
Sure, they lost a disappointing game to Vancouver FC, but they bounced back with a resounding win against league leaders, Pacific FC. While the match was shrouded in fog, the heat brought by the Wanderers on the pitch was certainly enough to burn off the iron-strong curtain of fog that washed over Halifax after torrential downpours throughout the day.
Amongst this shining performance was the return of a Wanderers legend, the King himself, Joao Morelli.
Let’s start with the man who had two goal contributions, bringing his total to six in just thirteen games: Massimo Ferrin. It feels like every game, he has received the ball near the halfway line, muscled off or blown by a defender, and then slid in a through ball or scored on his own.
With each contribution, his confidence grows to the point of being a threat every time he gets the ball in stride with a retreating defender. In a post-match interview with OneSoccer after one of the Wanderers’ home wins, Ferrin shared his aspirations to play at a level beyond the CPL. With every performance of this caliber, he shows why it is more than a possibility for the young man out of the Vaughan Azzuri.
Since game one of the season, it has been unclear as to how Andre Rampersad would fit into Patrice Gheisar’s midfield. Sure, he has the talent, professionalism and work ethic, but throughout this season he has looked disconnected, slow, and lacking confidence. This match against Pacific is where Patrice Gheisar and Andre Rampersad found a way for him to fit into the midfield: Rampersad’s play style is all about using his technical ability to create an extra second on the ball to provide control and stability.
In contrast, for the first nine matches that Andre played for the Wanderers this year, the midfield and attackers were expecting him to play in the quick half-seconds that often provide quick transitions from the defensive or midfield third to the attacking third. This extra time that Andre was used to taking was disrupting the flow of the offence and causing him to be out of sorts.
As much as Andre Rampersad’s game needed to evolve, it felt as if the team found a middle ground and realized that being slightly more patient in how they transition from back to front can allow for a more consistent, error-free approach that brings one of the most talented midfielders in league history back into the fold and back to their best.
Finally, I’d like to touch on how the Wanderers have been playing out of possession because that is one of the most significant changes from 2022 to 2023. When out of possession, the Wanderers are now compact, cohesive and moving like a school of fish, pushing and pulling the opposition into areas that allow the Wanderers to turn them over and keep them away from dangerous areas.
While Stephen Hart’s Wanderers squads were solid defensively, they did it in a different manner. Bunkering deep with every player behind the ball but were unable to transition out of their shape when they eventually turned over the opposition. This is proactive defending versus reactionary defending. In the long run, this will be crucial to Patrice Gheisar’s success at the club.
With this solid win against Pacific, Halifax stays in fifth place, but move four points clear of Atletico Ottawa, and just three points off of tying Forge in second.
With nothing specifically catching the eye milestone-wise for this match, I thought I’d leave you all with some final thoughts about the direction of the Halifax Wanderers, who, for all intents and purposes, have outperformed what many thought coming into the season.
Last season, the squad lacked personality and, for some reason, lost their edge. Whether it was the players themselves, the environment they were in, or just a lack of cohesion in the group, it is clear that this group is nothing like the players of the past.
2023 may not be the year that the Wanderers win silverware or even make the playoffs (who knows how the season will play out), but it will be the year where the club turns its mentality around and lays the foundation of success that clubs like Forge, Cavalry, and Pacific have had since the inception of the league.
2023 will be remembered fondly, and I expect many club legends to come out of this 2023 Wanderers squad.
Header Image Photo Credit: Trevor MacMillan / Halifax Wanderers FC